NEWTON (AP) — A federal judge in Boston on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block federal subpoenas for Boston College transcripts and recordings of interviews with former members of the Irish Republican Army.
The plaintiffs contend that release of the interviews could endanger the lives of former IRA members and undermine Northern Ireland’s peace.
The ruling was a minor victory for U.S. prosecutors. But a federal appeals court will likely have the ultimate say in whether the controversial interviews from a Boston College oral history project will eventually be handed over to police in Northern Ireland.
U.S. District Judge William Young ruled in favor of prosecutors after a brief hearing Tuesday, finding that the two men who filed the suit do not have legal standing to bring the complaint. The hearing was held at Boston College Law School as part of an annual program in which Young holds court hearings at a law school so law students can attend.
Young ruled in December that interviews with former IRA member Dolours Price could be turned over to U.S. prosecutors. But the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had temporarily blocked the handover. Arguments in that case — scheduled for March — will determine whether those interviews and the interviews of seven other former IRA members will be handed over.
Carrie Twomey, the American wife of Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA member who collected the interviews, told The Associated Press she fears her husband’s life will be in danger if the interviews are released.
Twomey, who attended Thursday’s hearing, said some “malicious elements” in Ireland have branded her husband as an informer because of his participation in the project, and she fears he could be killed.
“I think it would be the IRA — what’s left of the IRA,” she said. “The penalty for that is death.”
McIntyre and Ed Moloney, a former Belfast journalist who directed the oral history project, sued U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, arguing that he improperly issued subpoenas for the interviews.
They issued a statement saying they are not surprised by the ruling, and that they will appeal and “expect a much more positive outcome.”
Police investigating the IRA’s 1972 killing of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10, want to get the taped interviews. McConville’s killing has received widespread media attention in Ireland because of allegations that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams commanded the IRA unit responsible for ordering her execution and secret burial. Adams denies that.
Moloney has said that the material is explosive enough to damage Northern Ireland’s unity government, in which Sinn Fein represents the Irish Catholic minority. Their stable coalition with the British Protestant majority is the central achievement of the U.S.-brokered Good Friday peace accord.
McIntyre was convicted of murder and IRA membership for the 1976 drive-by shooting in Belfast of a Protestant militant from an outlawed rival paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force. McIntyre was paroled in 1993. He wrote a book criticizing the Sinn Fein-IRA leadership. His Catholic west Belfast home was picketed several times to protest his outspoken criticism of Adams. In 2007, he and his family moved to the Republic of Ireland border town of Drogheda, where he received a threat in 2010 when his neighbors’ house and car were vandalized by attackers who got his address wrong.
Twomey said she is outraged because Boston College did not appeal Young’s ruling ordering the school to turn over the Price interviews. She said each person interviewed for the project was promised confidentiality until their deaths.
Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn, however, said the participants were promised confidentiality only to the extent it could be given under U.S. law.
After Judge Young dismissed her husband’s lawsuit Thursday, Twomey confronted Dunn, telling him she is disappointed in how the college has handled the case.
“He’s putting my family’s life in danger,” she said, breaking down in tears. “Boston College are cowards.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.